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Book Review: Shadow Among Sheaves

About the Book:

A Timeless, Beautiful Allegory of the Biblical Love Story of Ruth and Boaz

The Great Rebellion of 1857 was a remarkably bloody business. At a time when Britain’s imperial influence in India was sparking brutal clashes on both sides, no one could have expected Rena, an Indian woman, to marry a British officer—nor do they understand her decision to follow her mother-in-law to England after her husband’s tragic death. 

Once the two widows are in Abbotsville, the stern yet compassionate Lord Barric attempts to help them despite his better judgment. Soon he is torn between the demands of reputation and his increasing desire to capture Rena’s heart for his own.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Shadow Among Sheaves. The re-setting of the story of Boaz and Ruth into England with an Indian widow was thought provoking. The characters were well developed and the writing was vivid. Over all I found the story engaging and would recommend it.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

An Unhurried Lent

Lent starts on Wednesday. It’s 40 days (not including Sundays). It’s a season of preparation for Easter. A time of reflection. I’ve been wondering what I was going to do this year. Every year is a bit different. Many times I give something up as a prompt for prayer. Sometimes I add things, a service that I can give as an offering or a discipline to put into practice. This year I’m joining with a group going through a book called Inhaling Grace.

The challenge is to find a way to combat the hurry and busy of our lives. I’ve been restless lately and I know that when I slow down and make space for creativity (rather than just focusing on productivity) then my whole life becomes more reflective, more prayerful and less harried. In this way I experience more grace and less striving. So I made myself this creative challenge. If anyone wants to join me I’ve love to have you share in the journey with me.

I’ll be sharing here, which will also help me get back into blogging more than book reviews, though there might be a short disruption as I’m moving hosting companies. I’ll also be sharing on Facebook.

The link to the book Inhaling Grace is here.

To learn more or join the Unhurried Lent group go here.

Book Review: The Rock That Is Higher

About the Book:

We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes… –Madeleine L’Engle, from The Rock That Is Higher

Story captures our hearts and feeds our imaginations. It reminds us who we are and where we came from. Story gives meaning and direction to our lives as we learn to see it as an affirmation of God’s love and truth–an acknowledgment of our longing for a rock in the midst of life’s wilderness.

Drawing upon her own experiences, well-known tales in literature, and selected narratives from Scripture, Madeleine L’Engle gently leads the way into the glorious world of story in The Rock That Is Higher. Here she acknowledges universal human longings and considers how literature, Scripture, personal stories, and life experiences all point us toward our true home.

My Thoughts:

This book is all L’Engle in style.  It is insightful and rambling all at the same time.  In it the author gives us a great deal of auto-biographical insight into her life and her thinking.  She relates her own story to her process of storytelling.  This is not a “how to” book for writers.  This work is not so much about the process of creating a story as it is the process of how she lived her own story and the impact that had upon her work.

 

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my opinion.

Book Review: A Name Unknown

Releases on July 4, 2017

About the Book:

Edwardian Romance and History Gains a Twist of Suspense

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

Peter Holstein, given his family’s German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a librarian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered.

But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors’ scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he’s more than his name?

My Thoughts:

I couldn’t put it down.  From the first page to the last I was intrigued by both plot and characters.  There were several interesting twists and turns to the story and I found myself feeling quite attached to the characters all the while hoping for a happy resolution to their varied dilemmas.  My only regret is that I read it too quickly.

I would fully recommend A Name Unknown.  I thought it was a delightful novel and I hope there will be more to follow.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: An Elegant Facade

cover86130-mediumAbout the Book:

Lady Georgina Hawthorne has always known she must marry well. After years of tirelessly planning every detail of her debut season, she is poised to be a smashing success and have her choice of eligible gentlemen.

With money and powerful business connections but no title, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere. He intends to marry someday, but when he does it will not be to a shallow woman like Lady Georgina, whose only concerns appear to be status and appearance.

But beneath her flawless exterior, Georgina’s social aspirations stem from a shameful secret she is desperately trying to keep hidden–and that Colin is too close to discovering. Drawn to each other despite their mutual intent to avoid association, is the realization of their dreams worth the sacrifices they’ll be forced to make?

My Thoughts:

An Elegant Facade is the second book in the Hawthorn House series.  (Or actually the third if you count the free novella, A Lady of Esteem).  You could read An Elegant Facade as a stand alone novel, but I would recommend reading it with the rest of the series.

I found the novel to be absolutely brilliant.  Kristi Ann Hunter took a risk and began by taking you halfway back into the events of her previous book (A Noble Masquerade) and telling parts of the tale again from another character’s point of view.  This could have come across as cumbersome or repetitive, however, it was so skillfully written that I found it fresh and inventive.  In fact, the author did something that is rarely done, she took a character that I had a mild dislike toward and made her someone that I really cared about.

All in all, I think that this story was a fabulously entertaining read that any fan of faith based Regency Romance should not miss.

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I was given a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Book Review: Playing the Part

 About the book:

“Turano, known for her delightfully humorous tales, has done it again.”–Booklist starred review of In Good Company

Lucetta Plum is an actress on the rise in New York City, but must abandon her starring role when a fan’s interest turns threatening. Lucetta’s widowed friend, Abigail Hart, seizes the opportunity to meddle in Lucetta’s life and promptly whisks her away to safety at her eligible grandson’s estate.At first glance, Bram Haverstein appears to be a gentleman of means–albeit an eccentric one–but a mysterious career and a secret fascination with a certain actress mean there’s much more to him than society knows.While Lucetta has no interest in Abigail’s matchmaking machinations, she can’t ignore the strange things going on in Bram’s house and the secrets he hides. As the hijinks and hilarity that Bram, Lucetta, and their friends are swept into take a more dangerous turn, can they accept who they are behind the parts they play in time to save the day?”Turano has crafted another feisty female protagonist who defies the mores of her time, in this case 1882 New York. This provocative novel brims with the author’s trademark humor and subtle romantic style laced with faith.” —Library Journal“The author will have readers laughing out loud and rooting for their favorite characters to fall in love. Lucetta is a plucky, admirable character filled with wit and intelligence. You will want to catch up with the first two books and then put this fast-paced, engaging novel on your must-buy list.”–RT Book Reviews Top Pick

My Thoughts:

I did laugh out loud, more than once.  Turano is my new favorite author to turn to when I really need a good laugh and Playing the Part did not disappoint.

This is the third book in a series and while you could read it without reading the other books first you will miss out on some of the character development that happened in previous novels.

Book One was: After A Fashion

Book Two was: In Good Company

The whole series was delightful.

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I received a free digital unedited proof of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: A Worthy Pursuit

A teacher on the run. A bounty hunter in pursuit. Can two enemies learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the orphaned girl entrusted to her care. Charlotte promised Lily’s mother she’d keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When Miss Atherton produces documentation that shows her to be Lily’s legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he’s been led to believe. Is she villain or victim?

Then a new danger forces Charlotte to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone vows to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he’s ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte’s heart.

My Thoughts:

Witemeyer shows great insight into human nature and uses that knowledge to build layered and believable characters, while keeping the story light and active.  I especially appreciated the way that the twin themes of trust and truly taking the time to see and understand people developed throughout the story.  While there will be no surprises in this happily ever after tale, it was an enjoyable book and well worth reading.

You can order A Worthy Pursuit through this link and your Amazon purchases will provide support to this blog and my ministry.  See sidebar for more details.

I received a free, pre-release, unedited digital copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

Journey – January 21

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.” Matt. 6:1

These words in Matthew call me back to the question: Where is value found?

Jesus cautions us about doing our acts of righteousness to be seen by men. Don’t give to be noticed. Don’t pray to be seen. Don’t fast to call attention to yourself. Don’t dress to be admired. Don’t make the things of this earth your primary treasure. Instead look to the Father who sees the secret things, the inner things.

If I gain my value from the world then I must be seen by the world. I must work harder. I must do more. I must prove myself valuable.

But if I gain my value from Christ, if I rest in His love for me, if I trust that He both sees and delights in me, then the compulsion to perform for men is broken. I can love – really love – from the heart because I know LOVE. I can act, not out of selfish ambition or self-serving need to be valued, but knowing that I am valued I can give all that I have with no need of recognition or admiration or even notice.

When I know that I am loved, I can give and serve with no need to please the world or be accepted by the world. I can love and give and serve from a place of freedom.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that I spend time basking in the love of God. Like the sun it must seep deeply into my skin and warm me to the core. This is not self-indulgence. This is true nourishment. I must make time to listen to the voice of God a non-negotiable in my life. I need to hear the voice that calls me Beloved, the voice that says that I am chosen and dearly loved, that I am seen and known and delighted in.

YouAreLoved

I am such a forgetful creature. If I do not find ways to remind myself of the love of God then I will find myself engaged in self-serving action, trying to gain my value from the world.

But if I guard my heart, protect time to simply enjoy the presence of God, to come away and listen to the voice of Love, then I can be at rest in my soul and the living water can flow through me without impediment. I can live and love and serve with freedom, not needing any other validation.

Knowing that I am seen and dearly loved changes everything.

You too are seen and dearly loved.

He invites you to freedom. Freedom to love. Freedom to serve. Oh, dear friends, draw near to hear the voice that would call you Beloved and find rest for your soul.

Traditions (Enchiladas, Spoonbread and More)

Christmas is a time when we think about traditions.  The memories mix with the moment and nostalgia dodges our steps.  This week nostalgia filled the air of my rental home here in Wales with the smells of green chili chicken enchiladas, sweet corn spoonbread and peppernuts.  Oh the joys of diversity.  My California upbringing and my Mennonite heritage collide at Christmas and I can hardly begin to celebrate without this delightful mix of culture and flavor.  We’ll leave the peppernuts for another day, because today, by popular demand, I want to share the recipes for this weeks “traditional” Christmas meal.  Honestly, tamales would be more traditional (Teen Challenge used to sell them as a Christmas fundraiser), but I’m much better at making enchiladas.

Yummy

Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces of green chilies (rinsed, chopped and seeded)
  • Small Onion
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp leaf oregano/crushed
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cilantro
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour (I use a gluten free mix)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream or sour cream
  • 1/4 cup (approx) Cooking Oil
  • 8 large Tortillas – (I use gluten free homemade flour or corn tortillas)
  • 3 to 4 Chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack or Mozzarella cheese

Method:

  • Cook chicken in olive oil on stove top or in slow cooker. Shred finely. Set aside. (For extra flavor add an extra 3 to 7 ounces of green chilies to the chicken while cooking)
  • Make Green Chili sauce: Saute small diced onion in olive oil or butter until clear or golden brown. Add  green chilies.. Add cumin, salt, oregano, pepper and cilantro. Cook 1 minute.
  • Stir in flour until well combined. Cook 1 minute.
  • Stir in chicken broth and heavy cream. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • In another pan bring cooking oil to a medium heat. Do not overheat – it should not smoke. Add tortillas to oil and quickly turn them over and remove them to your baking dish. (This softens the tortilla and keeps it from tearing when rolled)
  • Place tortilla in the pan. Add meat, sauce and some of the grated cheese. (Reserve enough sauce to pour over top when done) Roll the tortilla and continue until the pan is filled.
  • Cover with remaining grated cheese and the rest of the liquid mixture. Cook in oven on low heat until warmed through and cheese is melted.
  • If desired (and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t) Top with homemade guacamole before serving

Sweet Corn Spoon Bread

(Recipe credit: Lee Ann Clark = Allrecipes)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/3 cup masa harina
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Method:

  • In a medium bowl beat butter until it is creamy.  Add the Mexican corn flour (Masa Harina) and water and beat until well mixed.
  • Using a food processor, process thawed corn, but leave chunky.  Stir into the butter mixture.
  • In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, sugar, cream, salt and baking powder.  Add to flour mixture and stir to combine.
  • Pour batter into an ungreased 8×8 baking pan,  Smooth batter and cover with aluminum foil.
  • Place pan into a 9×13 baking dish filled a third of the way with water (water bath)
  • Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven F (175 C) oven for 50-60 minutes.  Allow to cool 10 minutes.
  • Use an ice cream scoop for easy removal from pan.